Helping Survivors of Suicide Loss
Author: Rebecca Franceschetti
When doing a quick Google search of the word ‘suicide,’ it’s clear to see that many of these articles address what to do when you believe a loved one may be at risk of committing suicide - risk factors, warning signs, mental health issues, etc. But what’s next? What happens after a loved one commits suicide? Studying up on risk factors, warning signs, and related mental health issues isn’t going to help survivors of suicide loss. Survivors need to focus on moving forward, not dwelling on what they may have missed or what they could have done. You can’t change the past. Therefore, it is imperative that survivors learn to forgive their loved ones, learn to forgive themselves, and learn how to cope with and grow from the experience.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide accounts for over 40,000 deaths of Americans each year, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. For every suicide, there are at least six survivors that are directly and profoundly impacted (American Association of Suicidology, 2014). That means that 240,000 Americans, at the very least, are affected by suicide each year - that’s about 13% of the United States population. With this many people being affected by suicide, it is important to have resources readily available to ensure that individuals can get the help that they need.
If you are a survivor of suicide loss, it is important that you take care of yourself and find ways to cope with the immense loss of a loved one. Here are a few ways that you can begin to do that:
Find a support group
Knowing that you are not alone and having a group of people who understand what you are going through can have a positive impact on a person and can tremendously help the healing process. To find a support group near you, visit: https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/find-a-support-group/
Maybe you think a support group is too overwhelming or you are just not sure that you are ready to talk about your experience yet. Try reading a book that can help you understand and deal with your grief.
After Suicide Loss: Coping with Your Grief
by Jack Jordan, Ph.D., and Bob Baugher, Ph.D.
Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide
by Beverly Cobain and Jean Larch
Suicide Survivors’ Handbook
by Trudy Carlson
For more information on the books listed above and for additional reading suggestions, visit https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/resources-loss-survivors/books-loss-survivors/.
Some people are better able to express themselves one-on-one with an individual rather than in a group. In this case, it may be helpful to find a therapist in your area that is able to help you process your emotions and give you guidance and resources to help you cope with those feelings.
There is not one right way to deal with the loss of a loved one. Everyone processes and copes with emotions differently. Therefore, each individual must figure out what works best for them. If support groups don’t work for you, try one-on one-counseling. It may take some trial and error to figure out what best suits you. Don’t give up and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For more resources, visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/loss-survivors/.
In the aftermath of a suicide, you might feel like you can't go on or that you'll never enjoy life again. In truth, life will be different without your loved one and reminders might trigger painful feelings for years to follow, but eventually your grief will fade and you will find hope and happiness. Learning how to cope with grief can help you find peace and healing. Keep On Keepin’ On!
American Association of Suicidology. (2014). Survivors of suicide loss fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/SurvivorsSuicideLoss2014.pdf.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2019, April 16). Suicide statistics. Retrieved from https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (n.d.). Loss survivors. Retrieved from https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/loss-survivors/.
Ashleigh Diserio Consulting works with individuals and organizations, assisting them in gleaning insight into a person’s life, motivation, and past and future behavior, so certain areas of behavior can be understood with a high degree of accuracy. We provide services in the areas of criminal and intelligence investigations, management support, threat assessment, insider threat support, and education and training.